Autonomous Mercedes-Benz Truck Fleet Convoys From Stuttgart to Rotterdam
380-Mile Trip Should Yield Fuel Savings Compared to Traditional Trucking
Three autonomous Mercedes-Benz Actros trucks set out from the company’s German headquarters in Stuttgart today. The team is scheduled to arrive in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on April 6.
The cross-border trip is important to Mercedes, since it signifies one of the first on-road applications of “platooning,” a scenario where connected trucks can drive very close to one another and take advantage of the lead truck’s slipstream, reducing drag and increasing fuel efficiency. The three Actros trucks will be able to drive with less than 50 feet in between them, compared to the 150-plus feet required by conventional trucks.
Enabling this phenomenon is Mercedes-Benz Highway Pilot Connect, a technology package that uses the trucks’ onboard Wi-Fi to link them together. An advancement of the company’s Highway Pilot tech, Connect streamlines Benz’s trucking fleet, literally. Highway Pilot also makes Daimler Trucks, M-B’s parent company, the only autonomous truck manufacturer with official road approval worldwide.
Highway Pilot is touted as a safety feature as well, since the system is able to respond to obstacles in the road with a reaction time of less than a tenth of a second. This compares favorably to a human’s reaction time of 1.4 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz.
The final benefit of Highway Pilot Connect is the decreased road footprint a fleet of trucks has. The train of three trucks measures about 250 feet, compared to more than 450 feet for three conventional trucks driving in succession. That frees up more space and can reduce congestion.
Expect to see Highway Pilot Connect (and other manufacturers’ similar technologies) adapted to more long-haul trucks in the future, bringing added safety and productivity to logistics and shipping.